Thursday, July 24, 2008

Children at the Courthouse

Okay, one of the things that really bothers and upsets me that I see at the CJC is the presence of children there.

It isn't that I don't like children. I adore kids.

But it breaks my heart to see them at the courthouse. A five-year-old doesn't need to be made aware that Daddy or Mommy broke the law. Parents should be a child's hero for as long as a parent can convince them to.

Kids damn sure don't need to see their parents taken into custody.

And don't get me started on all the germs floating around that place.

It happens every day. You will see the wife of a defendant toting along their small children to court, so that she can be present during his court proceedings. I know the common answer to this will be "well, they probably couldn't afford a baby sitter". I agree that is, most likely, true, but dammit, those mothers should put a priority on babysitting their children at home rather than babysitting their husbands in a courtroom.

It is also a semi-common trick for defendants to bring their children to court on the days that they know they are going to plea and go into custody. They then proceed to "hide behind" their children and insist that they can't be taken into custody because there was nobody there to take care of their kids. Unfortunately for both them and their children, that tactic rarely works.

Kids don't need to see that.

I once tried a 19-year-old gang leader who had ordered the murders of three different rivals in his gang. One of those murders (of a fifteen year old boy) had been carried out. Right after the Judge sentenced him to Life in prison, I walked out into the foyer and his one-year-old boy waddled up to me and smiled.

I felt like shit, quite frankly.

I know it wasn't my fault that the little boy's father had made the decisions that he had, and I know logically that Life was the appropriate verdict. But I felt so guilty for having received that little boy's smile, when I had just argued for (and gotten) a life verdict. My friends in the Office told me that I had probably done the kid a favor, and maybe they were right.

But it sure didn't feel that way, and as long as I live, I won't forget that little boy and that sweet smile.

I'm sorry for the rant, folks, but I had to get it off my chest.

Kids belong on playgrounds and at school.

Not in a Criminal Courthouse.


Anonymous said...


whimsicalrandomness said...

the ymca and some churches can afford to pick up the tab on child care while the adults are doing their thing... can the county not consider this and require parents to check-in and out their children? there are liability issues, but again, there are other organizations that successfully coordinate this. overall, i agree with you. children should not be allowed in the courtroom for whatever reason (child care cost, to hide behind for the reason that no one can care for them or to try and influence a jury to sympathize for the family instead of focusing on the defendant and his/her subsequent actions). sorry to hear you had to go through that.

R.J. MacReady said...

I go through the same thing every time I get on the elevator.

It lasts right up until the elevator starts to make noise like it's going to go all Speed on me.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, the bigger a turd a guy is, the more girlfriends and kids he will have-- if he's a gang member or a child molester, double the figure again. Nora 6's Second Iron Law of Physics.

Anonymous said...

And don't you love when they let their kids roam the halls, alone. HELLO! The building is rife with murderers and pedophiles. I once saw a little boy and girl, about 2 and 3, respectively, playing in the hall on the 2nd floor, by FCLD. Running between the men's and women's bathrooms. I asked them, "Where are your parents?" and they ran into FCLD waiting room. I proceeded to yell at the father (I assume that's who he was) of the kids, asking him, "Don't you know this building is full of pedophiles? Your kids were playing in the men's restroom!"
Yeah, that's just sad!!!

Ron in Houston said...

Well, I certainly don't feel that you should have felt like crap, but I do believe that remembering that everyone is a person will help you do your job with fairness and in what I'd call "justice."

I'll sometimes remind people that no matter how evil the person they still are human. My phrase is "even Hitler had a momma who loved him."

Anonymous said...

One time I was in the CJC cafeteria and was flagged down by some bystanders who directed me to 2 very young children (about 2 and 3) who had been left there alone by their mother. I called in the help of HCDA investigators who contacted CPS, took witness statements and filed charges on the mother. The kids were left alone for over half an hour in a place where pedophiles, murderers and robbers walk freely. The bystanders said the children tried to walk out of the cafeteria alone and the good citizens got the children and helped feed them until help arrived. These good samaritans were so upset by what they saw they said they wanted to adopt these children. When the mother finally returned for the children, she said she had left them there to go to her court setting. The children were absolutely filthy, as if they hadn't been bathed in days. The baby's diaper was running over. But the mother was dressed in some fancy clothes. I followed the case, and when the mother came to court after making bond, she had had her nails done and had extensions put in her hair. Seems like all the money she spent on herself should have been better spent on her children. Children deserve to be protected.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

I've thought the same thing many times. Ditto for probation and parole offices. OTOH, if you don't have child care, what are you supposed to do? Leave the kid alone and somebody will accuse them of being a neglectful parent.

Maybe in such settings the state should provide child care so the kids don't have to sit around with their parents in adult settings.

CJ Social Worker said...

I was at a family violence trial recently and one of the def's friends or family members was there with a young girl - about 7 years old or so. There was going to be testimony about the assault and I told the mother (who was not a witness, didn't have to be there) that there was going to be testimony she might not want her child to hear. She asked me if I was telling her to leave - I told her I wasn't, just a suggestion. She looked at the girl and asked her if she (the CHILD) if she wanted to be there. The child said yes and so they stayed.

Some judges will not allow children in the courtroom during testimony like this.

In my work as a social worker, I have many conversations with families about "kid business" and "grown-up business." Sometimes, they really just haven't thought about it.

TxGoodie said...

I'm reminded of a time years ago when I'd taken a deputy to lunch and the looks of the people around us at someone in uniform. Most pretended he wasn't even in the room, but one little girl of about 4 or 5 walked past and gave him the most go-to-hades look I've ever seen and it shocked me to my core. Kids learn this stuff the same way I was taught
TO respect the law and authority when I was a kid.

I feel for the kids, I truly do, but I felt more for my friend that day because he was just trying to eat his lunch. Every LEO I've ever known had such a soft spot of little kids it was so touching and they all stand a little taller when the kids look up to them instead of down ON them... just my .75 cents worth, adjusted for inflation.